Julie Valerie

One of the many benefits of being a writer is the flexibility to work whenever and wherever I want, but this benefit can also be a pitfall.

Like many writers, I write from home, so my workday often passes without human interaction. My dogs are always at my feet, but despite being English Labradors, neither of them speak the language.

I’m not lonely, quite the contrary.

As a wife and mother of four, I’m grateful for the solitude, but I also seek meaningful interaction with my writing tribe. The proverbial “water cooler” in my line of work is the writing conferences, classes, and retreats I attend across the country. Opportunities to talk shop, talk plot, and, when needed, opportunities to give or receive a pep talk. I need rooms filled with writers. Rooms that surround me with like-minded creatives. Rooms that feed my soul.

One particular “room” that is near and dear to my heart requires a 3,000-mile flight to a beach house on the California coast where I gather every year with six writers who have become like family. Trips to rooms with writers are much shorter when I connect locally with writer friends through my work on the board of directors at James River Writers in my hometown of Richmond, Virginia.

I’m blessed to have actual, physical spaces I can visit to spend time in the company of other writers, but I also enjoy networking with writers online, so I founded the 85K Writing Challenge, an online writing community that “embraces the writing life by advancing the practice of productive writing from the first word to the first reader.”

Working independently on their own projects, writers on the 85K Writing Challenge move methodically through a series of productivity cycles, charting a course that honors creativity within the framework of specific goals and deadlines. Because the 85K Writing Challenge website is at every writer’s fingertips, it offers writers that water cooler vibe that’s so necessary but hard to obtain when you work in relative isolation, and yes, even obscurity.

Why do I seek rooms filled with writers who write for the readers who read them?

Because in my daily life, in rooms where I live, volunteer, attend school performances and watch my children play sports, I’m often keenly aware that I’m the only writer in the room.

Which makes me long for the room I love most of all.

My writing room.

The room in my home at the center of my writing life. My polestar. My epicenter. My hub. My space for casting universes and going deep with language. A place to converse with characters as real to me as my own flesh and blood.

In my room? Two dogs always at my feet. Dogs, that, despite being English Labradors, can’t speak the language.

I’m living my best life.

One of the many benefits of being a writer.

Learning, Becoming, Being


Learning the craft. Becoming a writer. Being an author. A peek inside my practice, process, and passion

Write. Edit. Prep. Publish


Embracing the writing life by advancing the practice of productive writing from the first word to the first reader.